In this post, I’ll share what I do the last 7-10 days prior to my race and how to ensure I that I’m fresh, fit and ready for my marathon.
This post has been one of my most visited the last few months. I refer athletes whom I coach to this post to help them rest & prepare during the final weeks of training for a long race.
I also receive a lot of questions about preparations the night before the race, include requests for marathon packing checklists. Since most races start early in the morning, it’s critical to plan everything you’ll need, including transportation and communications with family/friends prior to the race. I thought I would update my original post with information that can help runners (of all experience levels) to ensure that they have everything needed for their big race.
I recently received an e-mail with a link to her beginner’s guide to marathons from Jenny Hobbs. Jenny has completed a lot of research and put together a comprehensive Marathon Packing Checklist which I find very useful. You’ll want to pull up this list about a week prior to your race and start assembling your day of race uniform, accessories and food/gels. Using a list like the one provided in Jenny’s guide is real helpful to ensure you don’t miss anything. Your comfort before, during and after the race are essential to a positive experience. I strongly recommend that you print out this checklist and use it.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
As I wind down my training, I have found that the strategy that gets the most consistent (good) results, is to slightly reduce my volume over the last few weeks, but don’t decrease the intensity.
A month out from the race, I topped my weekly mileage at 57. Although I still completed strength & longer tempo runs in subsequent weeks, I decreased my weekly mileage by 10-15% weekly. The last week before my race, I completed some intervals/speed on a trail and a shorter tempo. I also completed strides on the track to ensure I have some faster running. This strategy that I learned when I was coached by Greg McMillian, is called “keeping the engine revved.” My weekly mileage the last week prior to the marathon was 37 miles.
These workouts in the last 1 ½ weeks stress your body, but not as much as earlier in the plan. The goal is to ensure you’re fresh, fit and ready to run on race day.
In the last 3-4 days do your best not to go hungry. This doesn’t mean you should overeat. Instead, make sure you are consuming nutritious snacks in between your healthy meals. Snacks I recommend are whole wheat bagels, bananas, avocado (to spread on toast or bagels), peanut butter and energy bars. Consume these with plenty of water. In fact, you should be drinking a lot of water (48 – 64 ozs more than you typically drink before a long run or hard workout). In the last few days before the race, you can have some sports drinks/electrolytes. Just remember, don’t overdo any eating or drinking and definitely do not consume anything that you haven’t previously tested before a long or hard run.
I don’t think you need to “carbo load” 1-2 days before the race. Instead, I recommend eating a balance of healthy fats (salmon, avocados & nuts work for me) and quality carbs (whole grain pasta with marinara, salad & whole grain bread). Substituting a few extra carbohydrates instead of protein works well for me and other runners. We don’t need to overdo it with too many carbs because your training volume has decreased slightly. Trust me, a slight increase in carbs typically works fine.
Just remember what worked during your training, should work now.
Following are my workouts for the week of June 25th.
Monday June 25th – modified Fartlek
This is not a “push it the max” workout. Instead the purpose is to get some quick leg turnover, but also not allow full recovery between reps, that’s why I call it a Modified Fartlek. I like to complete this workout on a bike or dirt trail, because I won’t push as hard as if I was on a track. This is an 8 mile workout.
1 mile warm-up at easy pace 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (at brisk, not a slow jog) 1 x 1 mile at MP with ¼ mile rest 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk) 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk) 1 x 1 mile at MP with ¼ mile rest 2 x ¼ mile at 10k pace with ¼ mile modified rest (brisk) 1 mile cool down at easy pace
You can see the mile splits below. This is a hard workout, but it’s not meant to be very demanding. It’s important to not go too slow in between the 1/4 & 1 mile intervals.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 8.0 miles, 1:00:23 minutes, ave pace 7:32
Tuesday June 26th – Treadmill @ Easy Pace + Conditioning Exercises
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5 miles, 40 minutes, ave pace 8:00
Wednesday June 27th – Treadmill @ easy pace
Very limited time to run today due to business travel. I completed 4 miles @ easy pace on a treadmill. The purpose of this run was just to get in something.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 4 miles, 32:00 minutes, ave pace 8:00
Thursday June 28th – Off Day
Rest & Recovery Day – Business Travel
Friday June 29th – Short Tempo
1 mile warm-up @ easy 4 mile tempo @ 6:50 – 7:00/mile pace 3 mile cool down @ easy
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 8 miles, 1:00:46 minutes, ave pace 7:32
Saturday June 30th – Easy Run + Strides – recovery
Strides are to practice quick leg turnover & keep the “engine revved.”
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 6.1 miles, 51:36 minutes, ave pace 8:25
Sunday July 1st – Easy Run – recovery
The purpose of today’s run was more easy running. Recovery, just lower volume
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 6.1 miles, 49:18 minutes, ave pace 8:00
To reap the benefits of your long distance training, you need to consume healthy foods so you can properly fuel your body, build muscle & recover from hard & long workouts. As you get progress through your training for your race, you will find that what you eat impacts how feel both during and after your workouts and ultimately how long it takes you to complete your race.
Also, to get prepared for your race, you must stay healthy while you train. This means you need to build a strong immune system. It’s easy to get tired and even run down during your training if you don’t properly recover. In this post I will speak to the importance of diet during your training. I will also provide some sample meals. Although, exercise helps build the number of germ fighting cells in your body, eating the right foods also helps. Healthy runners have a diet that includes a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, lean fats, vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and vitamins C & E for a strong immune system.
Timing of your food consumption is critical
It’s important to eat nutrient-dense calories & drink plenty of water prior to your main workout of the day. Also, to limit post exercise muscle damage and speed the recovery process you need to consume both protein & carbohydrates soon after your runs. This is especially important in the 30 – 45 minutes following a hard run and then a few hours later to have a bigger meal. This helps to ensure optimal recovery.
Just like each person’s training is different because of their goals, mileage and athletic abilities, the same is for nutrition. Each runner’s body can responds differently to foods. It’s important that you try different healthy foods and time consumption so you can optimize your performance and avoid any GI issues.
Here’s some proven strategies that I follow & share with runners I coach.
Avoid empty calories and focus on eating foods that give me the most nutrients per calorie. These include good sources of whole grains and starches (like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta), lean proteins (lean meat, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs and beans), healthy fats (salmon, avocados, nuts, and olive oil), and of course, colorful fruits and veggies which provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For pre- and post-workout snacks, I recommend fruits, fresh cut vegetables, healthy (meaning not a ton of sugar and full of natural ingredients) granola or energy bars, fruit, nuts, and Greek yogurt. My focus is to time the healthiest eating around my runs so I’m fueling when I need it and not just grazing or snacking at odd hours with “bad food.”
Here’s some examples of healthy meals:
Recovery Breakfast Whole wheat toast with peanut or almond butter 4-6 ozs.of low fat Greek Yogurt + Banana 8-10 ozs of Orange juice + 12 ozs of Water *I like to make myself a breakfast sandwich that includes a toasted whole grain English muffin, cheddar cheese, scrambled or easy over egg and turkey bacon or sausage. Include some hot sauce for a little “kick.”
Recovery Lunch Turkey or chicken sandwich with spinach, tomato and mustard on whole grain bread Orange, Apple or cup of mixed fruit (not sweetened fruit salad from a can) 4-6 ozs of mixed raw vegetables (carrot sticks, broccoli, sliced red/yellow peppers, pea pods, etc) 8-10 ozs of unsweetened plain soy milk or almond milk 12 ozs of Water
Avoid processed foods. A good place to start is to cut back on food that comes from a plastic wrapper. If you must purchase packaged food, then choose those with the fewest and most familiar ingredients.
Recovery Dinner Whole grain pasta with tomato sauce & meatballs (turkey or meatless) or grilled chicken Or Baked Salmon + baked sweet or russet potato with nonfat Greek Yogurt & Brummel & Brown Yogurt butter. Garden salad with spinach, kale, yellow/red/orange peppers, sliced carrots, sliced avocado, cranberries and/or blueberries, sunflower seeds and oil/vinegar dressing Steamed broccoli or mixed vegetables + Whole wheat dinner role 12 ozs of Water
The bottomline for your diet is that just like with your training, there are no shortcuts or 3-4 foods you can consume that will make-up for not eating a well balanced diet. You don’t have to be too strict, just be aware of what & when you eat and listen to how your body reacts.
On the day of the race, never eat anything that you haven’t previously tested during your training.
Following are my workouts for the week of June 11th.
Monday June 11th – short run @ easy pace
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ long run. It’s very important to go easy throughout this run, especially considering the next days’ workout is going to be tough.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.7 miles, 53:28 minutes, ave pace 7:56
Tuesday June 12th – Strength run 10 x 800s
This was a tough workout. I couldn’t run on the High School track, so I just ran on neighborhood surface streets near the track (not optimal). I was tired the last 3-4, but I pushed through. My times weren’t near target (3:05-3:16), but the stimulus of the workout achieved it’s goal.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 9.9 miles, 1:21:53 minutes, ave pace 8:14
Wednesday June 13th – short run @ easy pace + strides
5 mile easy run + strides. The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ very demanding run.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5 miles, 43:09 minutes, ave pace 8:33
Thursday June 14th – Off Day
Rest & Recovery Day
Friday June 15th – Long Tempo Run
The purpose of today’s workout was to build strength. I increased the distance by a mile from my last tempo. Paces are the same, as shown in the image below. After a 1 mile warm-up, I complete 9 miles at marathon pace. As you can see, I was right on pace for the duration of the tempo. The extra day of rest (completing this workout on Friday instead of Thursday as my scheduled called out) really helped. I’m happy with this run, especially after struggling through the Yasso 800s on Tuesday.
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 11.6 miles, 1:22:12 minutes, ave pace 7:04
Saturday June 16th – short run @ easy pace + 15 minutes of conditioning exercises at gym
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ intense workout. The conditioning exercises weren’t too intense, but they help to build strength & improve flexibility.
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 5.4 miles, 43:34 minutes, ave pace 7:58
Sunday June 17th– Medium Run @ easy pace
A slightly longer run than typical easy days, but at an easy pace. As we get closer to the race, I am shortening some of my runs.
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 8.5 miles, 1:07:13 minutes, ave pace 7:50